Cabinet approve cuts to Citizens Advice
A consultation was held and an Equality Impact Assessment produced over the Christmas period to assess the impact cuts to County Council funding of Citizens Advice. However, neither were available prior to the Cabinet meeting, so the County plan remains cuts by 50% to £184,000 in 2019/20 and to zero in 2020/21.Austerity is still with us and could shortly take a turn for the worst so money saving is necessary but at what cost? The CAB receive £1.2m in total from local authorities. They help 21,663 clients with 75,532 issues and claim to save the NHS £1.3m, DWP £2.2m and housing providers £1.7m in a year.
County was suggesting the CAB approach Suffolk crematoria for funds as they give money from gold fillings etc to charity. A suggestion I find it hard to believe.
However, the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and the NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Groups have stepped into the gap. Clearly they understand the value of this service despite their own funding issues.
This year, across my County and District locality budgets, I have managed to help Bramford Church redecorate their hall, the Victory Hall improve security, the Playing Field install a “castle” and the Parish buy a Vehicle Activated Sign.
Henley Community Centre have had a donation towards replacement of their chairs, Great Blakeham Parish Room for re-decoration, and the Bramford Scout Group to improve their kitchen.
A bit Bramford & Blakenham focussed but they had schemes to fund and your district councillors have been active in Claydon and Barham.
I hope this meets with your approval.
Upper Orwell Crossings project cancelled
The Upper Orwell Crossings project in Ipswich has finally been cancelled, after concerns were raised last summer that the project was likely to go well over the original budget. It was not possible to get additional funding and the DfT funding will go to other national projects and will not be spent in Ipswich.
Suffolk County Council has spent over £8m on the project to date, most of which was on consultants’ fees. Money had to be spent to meet government target timings, but the county committed the cardinal sin of revising specifications significantly and running into cost increases. There were also delays in getting approval from landowners for some work.
Investment for Special Educational Needs
A cross-party Policy Development Panel has recommended that Suffolk County Council invests £45.1m to develop new SEND (Special Educational Needs & Disability) schools and specialist units within schools in Suffolk.
This investment would create a desperately needed additional 828 specialist education places in Suffolk. Currently many children struggle to access appropriate provision and are forced to travel to out-of-county schools to get the support they need.
The Cabinet have agreed in principle to the PDP’s recommendations. The capital investment programme will need to undergo a full investment appraisal before the Cabinet will make a firm commitment, but this is good news.
New Director of Highways appointed
After a long search, a new Director of Growth, Highways and Infrastructure has been appointed. Mark Ash will join Suffolk County Council in February from Essex County Council.
Did I report improvement too soon? The area is tidier and some progress has been made by the new contractors. I have had residents asking about the connection of the street lamps but I believe that was always scheduled for a later date.
I have to say that in Baylham the contractor for the pipe laying has moved at a good pace, stayed ahead of schedule and kept people informed. It can be done!